It’s hard to reach one of life’s major milestones and not fall into lazy cliche. To resort to the language of the reality TV show. To talk of journeys and growing and learning and becoming a better person. At moments like this I find the best solution is to try to forget what anyone else has ever said about anything and just write from the heart. If it’s all be said before then so be it, but it will be the first time Ive said it.
Tomorrow is a very big day in the life of Team Jones. Two fresh starts. Two first days in school. Two roles change significantly.
Aoife starts pre-school – the last year before she starts primary school full-time. She is not moving from the place she has been at nursery for the last year or so but is moving classes, buildings and teachers. She will now wear a uniform – I fear there may be some dust in my eye in the morning when Dr J and I drop her off – and despite being only three and a half will take a big step in the world.
At the same time – well, an hour later, Dr J will start her new job. She will take up her position as Deputy-Director at the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice at the University of Liverpool. She will be returning to work after over three and a half years, finishing up her previous role a month or so before Aoife was born. Aileen too is taking a big step in the world – a step she is well-qualified to take after building for herself through natural brains and hard work an impressive career in parliament and in big jobs in the public and private sectors. The career break she took to devote her life to being a mum may be over but not her devotion to our daughter. Her life is still all about that endeavour – something she excells at every minute of every day – but now she will have half of her week (well, three days) also devoted to helping the University. What an exciting day. I could not be prouder of both of them. Two wonderful, indescribably special people. The two people that make my life what it is today. A life of love, smiles and contentment.
For my part there are changes too. Welcome, wonderful changes that reflect my desire to have a life that truly drives my work and were the balance is not found occasionally but all the time. I will continue to work and study for my PhD, squeezing in some teaching at the University, but I will take on the majority of the nursery runs and the cooking for Team Jones. It has been the greatest privilege of my life so far to spend the last two and half years at home watching our daughter grow up and my wife giving her the best start in life anyone could have. I was there for the first year too – so often in body if not fully in mind – but in and out of central London, attached to work emails, work phone calls, constant interruptions to family time, fitful sleeping, early starts, late nights, a life of no control, huge stress, deep and destructive anxiety and a ticking time bomb that exploded and sent me to hospital with pneumonia and towards my own brush with a breakdown.
Tomorrow, the page turns on a new chapter for us all. A chapter which continues the blockbuster of a story of our lives together. A story which began nearly ten years ago to the day when I met Aileen and the whole trajectory of my future changed in an instant; a trajectory which has scaled the amazing heights of waking every day in the presence of these two belters. We didn’t plan it as perfectly as it now feels looking back but our move of work and home could not have worked out better for all three of us; from the weary wellbeing of the south to the homely healthiness of the north.
We made some big choices in the last two years or so; choices that have brought us to this place; to the life we have now. It is not false modesty, I am proud of the changes we made and that we made them but I still pinch myself. I still count my blessings. I still believe I am the luckiest man alive. I can still remember how I felt lying in hospital full of pain, full of sadness, full of a fear about what my life was becoming. I shudder when I think of that man I can see clearly but don’t recognise; the man who would not be sat here now writing this, trying to avoid cliches and failing; what a journey!